In the interests of balance, and to reassure you that I am not some anti-driver zealot*, it should not go unremarked that there are many cyclists who give us (responsible cyclists) a bad name. They’re not hard to spot. Critically, they are unlikely to cause the kind of damage you might suffer during an altercation with a ton and a half of metal, so this should be kept in perspective. Nevertheless, they have the potential to increase the risk to the rest of us through dangerous, selfish and ignorant riding.
No doubt, by now you’re thinking about jumping red lights**. Yes, you can see this at just about any junction and while I wouldn’t condone the practice outright, there are some circumstances where it makes little sense to stop in the middle of a busy road when getting across to a safer place is readily achievable without inconveniencing other road users or pedestrians. (Check the data for cyclists being crushed by lorries.) Some of the worst problems are caused by cyclists simply ploughing on through pedestrians at pelican crossings, and I’m pretty sure I’ve heard of death and serious injury being the outcome of some of these incidents. Clearly, these are high visibility/high publicity scenarios and many members of the public at large come to assume that we all ignore red lights at crossings.
One of my particular concerns is where the so-called ‘proper’ cyclist upsets drivers through their own inconsiderate riding habits. If there’s a car at a junction, a cyclist pulling up alongside and blocking the view is almost certain to irritate the driver; failing to raise a hand in acknowledgement of a courteous act is simply ignorant; riding two abreast on a busy road is selfish. I’d simply appeal to riders to be more aware of other road users and more aware of the impact they may have on other road users. It takes a few seconds to really irritate a driver and such irritation could quickly develop into a long-standing grudge with the potential to provoke acts of revenge for minutes, hours, days, weeks or years to come.
I have to say that I don’t think the use of ipods (or similar) is wise. I rely on my ears to provide valuable information about what’s going on around me and I cannot see how listening to music and the consequent impairment of my hearing is justifiable. I wouldn’t wear dark glasses at night. The point is that if I am on a narrow country lane and I hear a car approaching, I can turn my head to alert the driver to the fact that I know s/he is there and then take action to ensure that the car can pass as soon as possible. With earphones in place, I may hear the car much later (if at all), by which time the driver could already be thinking about the ‘ignorant lycra lout’ blocking the road. Surely it’s better to display awareness and consideration. I know many riders will disagree with this, but I cannot see how it makes sense to reduce the efficiency of one of the senses. Yes, cars have radios and motorcyclists use earplugs to protect their ears, but they also have mirrors and are generally travelling at higher speeds.
Anyway, the fact of the matter is that there are some terrible drivers out there, but there are also some bad cyclists. I suspect they are bad drivers, too.
*I’ve been driving for some 32 years and have passed my Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) test, following which I trained with the Sussex police to become an assessor with the IAM.
**Out of interest, when did it become de rigeur for so many motorists to jump red lights? I can pretty much guarantee that on any given journey (in a car or on my bike) I will witness blatant jumping. Leicester city is particularly bad.